Friday, June 29, 2012

Post Trip - Nagala Cycling - June 16-17 - Peter Van Geit

On Saturday June 16th early morning 14 wheeling enthusiasts assembled in their respective points across the city with their cycles. Target for the weekend was to circle the entire Nagala mountain range by cycle. Little did they know the magnitude of the effort ahead of them. After regrouping at the various assembly points, around 5am they left the Northern outskirts of the city along the banks of the vast Puzhal lake where the water line had retreated due to the summer drought. One cyclist returned home early facing trouble with his rented cycle.


The thorny bushes along the lake soon resulted in a couple of punctures which were fixed swiftly. From Puzhal the journey continued along the roads towards Cholavarm tank where the peloton could drive along a scenic dirt track along the entire length of the lake. At the horizon across the lake our target was faintly visible - the Nagalapuram range - short in sight but yet so far away....


From Puzhal we proceed further along NH5 crossing the Korttalai river taking an immediate left onto the Periyapalam highway where we stopped around 8am for breakfast. Especially those who had started from South Chennai at 3am started to feel the hunger. After refuelling we soon left the highway again for smaller countryside tar roads winding through scenic paddy fields and rice plantations which were in bright green bloom and filling the view as far the eyes could reach. Every now and then we passed through small little towns travelling back in time. We soon spotted a water pump in the fields and one blimp later the whole team was enjoying a refreshing shower underneath it. A cool dip at regular intervals keeps the spirits of the cyclists up just like the trekkers have their pools to dip along the stream.


With a small puncture fix delay every now and then the team progressed slow but steady along little winding tar roads northwest towards the base of Nagala. At the same time the temperatures kept rising although the team was lucky to have a cloudy overcast shielding us from direct sun rays. At some nooks and corners at about hourly intervals the team kept reenergising themselves by emptying lemon juice shops. With 13 heads, 4 glasses per cyclist and no less then 5 stops around 260 lemon and mixed fruit badam juices went down that Saturday keeping the up wings as we were cruising on our wheels.


When nearing Uttukottai we left the tar and entered a wide dirt track alongside the Telugu Ganga canal brining drinking water to Chennai from the Krishna river in Anhdra. Succumbing to temptation the cyclists were soon seen just heads above the water surface cooling down their bodies in the surpisingly cool canal water. As we continued along the canal amid peaceful paddy fields far away from the traffic of cities and towns we could see kids from the surrounding villages also enjoying their morning bath. After our third shower beneath a shoulder high water pump in the fields we left the canal and headed towards Uttukottai for lunch. It was 3pm and we had been burning tons of calories since breakfast making us feel starved once again.


Here slowly the team regrouped again as some members had faced delays due to a few punctures. From Uttukottai we proceeded further towards Satyavedu along a wide tar road winding silently through large mango plantations. By dusk we took a left inside the Palem forest heading straight towards TP Kotta at the Eastern base of Nagala where we would set up our camp. We had called up a villager in advance to order our dinner - yummy tomato rice and sambar. Dinner went down fast and before we could say goodnight everyone was deep asleep the stars shining bright above us.


Rise and shine! One benefit of sleeping under the stars is that one is woken up automatically by the rising sun. Everyone, get up! We have a challenging ride ahead of us today - we need to encircle the entire Nagalapuram range. We soon formed 2 groups - a first one which decided to spend some time at the Nagala East stream and then head back to Chennai. Another one was ready to jump immediately on their wheels and start rounding Nagala - a herculean task which would easily add another 100km before they could even steer back home. 6 brave cyclists soon disappeared from the campsite heading North along the Eastern base of Nagala.


It took around 30km to reach Varadaiahpalem (entry to the Tada falls) where the team had their already second fill of lemon juices. 1 cyclist was not feeling well and decided to put his wheels back on a cab to Chennai. The remaining 5 continued along the Sri Kalahasti highway further towards the Northern tip of the Nagala range. A considerable headwind made them push hard on their peddles. One more victim succumbed to the headwind, only 4 remaining now...


Before Kalahasti we left the highway and following a small village road we again resumed on the jeep track alongside the Telugu Ganga canal. This was one of the most scenic stretches of the entire weekend - we were driving on a red coloured gravel dirt track alongside the 50 feet wide canal with strong clear water current running elevated above the surrounding landscape attached to the base of the Nagala range. Any time we felt the sun getting too hot we just had to park our wheels and take a refreshing dip in the canal. Flowing into Poondy reservoir one can follow the canal by cycle on a 4m wide sand gravel track for a total distance of 80km alongside the eastern base of Nagala before it proceeds further North. Amazing cycle track deep inside the peaceful countryside!



A little while further the canal disappeared into a long viaduct which carried it across the 100m wide Kaalingi river which drains most of the Western Nagala plains into Pulicat lake. We cycled across the viaduct and soon left the canal to proceed along small winding tar roads inside the paddy fields heading South seeing the Nagari range at our right and Nagala range on our left. We faced a strong Northwest wind and the sun beating down on us made us push our limits as we tried to complete the 200km mark. We drove alongside the Kaalingi reservoir, one of the largest lakes at the Western side of Nagala giving breath taking views on the foothills. 


After emptying another set of 20 cool drinks in a God forsaken little hamlet the 4 remaining survivors proceeded further along the Sri Kalahasti to Pichatur main road. Dehydration on wheels was ten fold compared to hiking and so was the intake of fluids. Pushing hard against the head wind the legs, bump and hands were starting to feel the strain as we're approaching the 200th kilometer. One moment we saw the white water gushing from a pump in the field nearby, the next moment 4 cyclists were bathing underneath, the cool groundwater gently massaging their strained bodies, escaping from the afternoon sun.


Around 2pm we crossed Pichatur dam taking a hard left East on the Uttukottai Puthur highway rolling now at a faster pace with a slight sidewind. Our regular Nagala return stop the Punjabi Bhaba was a welcome sight at 230km the clocking pointing at 3pm. Starved after pedalling for 9 hours continuously since 6am this morning we filled our tummies with the first decent meal of the day. We took a quick power nap during which a few fellow CTCians dropped in to say hi on their return from their own trek destinations for the weekend. Some even made the hard to resist offer of swapping our cycles with their bike to reach home but our mind was fixed on the unmovable target of completing 300km so we had to pass on this offer.


Off we went again in the late afternoon heading home towards Chennai. Soon darkness fell and every additional 10km became heavier for mind and body. I could honestly admit that this 300km ride against wind and sun was no less tough then our marathon mission on foot. At many moments the power of the mind had to overcome the strain on the body to resist from giving up and continuing to finish the mission. Girish pedalled ahead to catch his 10-30pm bus to Bangalore while Shumon and myself steadily rolled further Southeast towards the city. 


After crossing the suburbs and wheeling straight through the heart of the city we finally reached the Southern end around 11pm where we had left 44hours earlier. Exhausted, sore but, sun burned face and skin covered by a layer of dust and dirt from the city traffic with legs trembling beneath I looked at the GPS odometer and saw the digits faintly glimmering in the darkness... 307km. Instantly all pain faded away knowing that yet again we had conquered mind over body in stretching our limits which felt like nothing else in this earthly world.

More pics on our forum

Route


Route South

1 - TIDEL Assembly
2 - Guindy Assembly
3 - Koyambedu Assembly
4 - divert from 100ft road towards Puzhal lake
5 - divert from NH5 towards Sholavaram tank
6 - breakfast at hotel, divert from highway towards smaller countryside roads through scenic paddy fields and small towns


Route North

7 - get onto the Telugu Ganga canal, take lunch at Uttukottai
8 - proceed along Sathyavedu highway and take left along small tar road through Palem forest
9 - campsite near TP Kotta, dinner at village (120km)
10 - proceed along small tar roads North, battery ran out
11 - breakfast at Varadaiahpalem (near Tada falls)
12 - leave Sri Kalahasti highway and proceed along Telugu Ganga canal, very scenic stretch along base of Nagala
13 - Canal crossing over the Kaalingi river
14 - Huge Kaaligni catchment area at Nagala Western side
15 - Proceed along small tar road towards Pichatur
16 - Proceed along highway to Nagalapuram, lunch (220km)
Proceed straight to Uttukottai, Periapalayam, get onto NH5 towards Chennai
Reach TIDEL Park (306km)
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